Its that time of year again, when the mercury slowly starts rising and the mad rush to get the bod in shape for the glorious beach weather to come begins. As the days get longer, the urgency to feel beach-ready intensifies and it's not uncommon for people to attempt unsustainable diets and training regimes that often leave them unable to function most of the day. To combat this, we caught up with physiotherapist Luke Walker and transformation coach Chris Cannon to put together 8 tips to help you get shredded this summer, and maintain it past the usual 4-6 week timeframe.
1. Activation, activation, activation.
No matter the fitness level, activation is vital for performance, injury prevention and simple aesthetic. A common reason for most people’s nonspecific lower back pain or knee pain is due to poor glute (your butt muscles) strength. A way to deal with this issue is to not only train movements that strengthen your glutes, but activate them before every session. Four common exercises that can help activate these muscles before a session include hip bridges, side leg raises, banded clams and banded crab walks. If you don’t know what they are, google them. The stronger your glutes, the stronger you will lift and the quicker you will progress. For the ladies, better activation leads to bigger butt muscles. No one ever wrote a song about a small ass, right?
2. Pick up that weight.
Although strength training has become a much more common and popular way of losing weight, it's still often perceived as not being as effective as stagnant and prolonged cardio. Another myth is that weights training will make women super ‘bulky’. Both of these statements are incorrect. Strength training not only burns calories whilst you are working out, but continues to burn calories as you recover and rebuild your muscles post workout. Strength training builds lean muscle mass and thus an increase in BMR (basal metabolic rate). Basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy expressed in calories that a person needs to keep the body functioning at rest. This means that with more muscle on your body, you are able to burn more calories while at rest - sounds good to me.
3. Keep it simple.
There are two points behind this topic. First, don’t go doing 20 different exercises each session. The best exercises to master include the squat, deadlift or variation, hip bridge, bent over row, bench press, overhead press, push up and chin up. All of these movements will assist with day to day, functional strength and movement. These exercises also use the most muscle groups and thus burn a shit ton of calories. Why spend 20 minutes on a bicep curl when you can do a chin up, work 5 times as many muscles and burn 5 times more calories. Train smart and efficiently.
Secondly, don’t waste your time with different pieces of equipment. Every exercise that is needed in the gym can be performed with barbells and dumbbells. It’s important to master these basic movements before moving on to the pretty, colourful and fluffy equipment.
4. Form first, weight second.
A common thing that’s seen within the gym is people lifting silly amounts of weight during exercises when they can’t even maintain the correct form. If unsure, rather than just looking around the room at what ‘Jimmy’ is doing, or googling an exercise on the internet, ask for help! Don’t be afraid to ask a professional, that’s what we are here for! Outlaying a small amount of time and money at the beginning of your fitness journey will save you a whole lot of time and money later on. You don’t want to end up wasting dollars and hours once you’re injured.
5. Use speed and intensity.
Although progression is made through increasing weight, reps and sets, the speed and intensity of an exercise are commonly overlooked. Using speed throughout an exercise helps for a few reasons. By generating force through the concentric (muscle shortening) phase of an exercise, you are triggering a primal response through the central nervous system. If you lift with speed, this makes the brain think you need to potentially escape from a life threatening situation. It will then activate or trigger 100% of your muscles to perform that exercise. If you perform the same exercise slowly, the body will not necessarily recruit 100% of it’s potential. Not only does this make you slower and weaker, it makes you more injury prone.
Slow, fatigue driven cardio will burn calories, but definitely won’t be the most effective way to get you lean and shred that stubborn fat. People have busy lives, and struggle to fit in hours of slow cardio. Quick and fast bouts of cardio will burn more calories during the effort, but also burn a shit load more calories after the effort through EPOC (excessive post oxygen consumption). Again, burning calories while you sit, we’ll take it!
6. Get more than physically fit, get mentally fit.
Many believe we get physically fit when heaving steel and feeling the burn in the gym, but this is only half the story. The real magic happens in recovery, without it we’ll never truly see our physical fitness potential. The same principle applies when getting mentally fit. This is where ‘mindfulness’ comes in - the latest buzzword, and with good reason! It seems there's an endless barrage of emails, social events, notifications and deadlines in our interconnected lives which can often leave us feeling overwhelmed.
Our minds are working out and many are burning out as most of us are not getting enough recovery. Trying meditation and mindfulness applications like Insight Timer or Headspace are a brilliant way to combat this by forming a starting point to rest the mind and increase your mental fitness. Start by taking 10 minutes out in the morning or night and start building it into your daily routine. Some wise words we were once told; "If you think you don’t have 10 minutes to meditate, you need 20.”
7. Goals are nothing without habits.
The weather is warming up, and many have set the goal of shedding the winter coat. Goals are great, but without a plan built on habits they are more often a wish than a likely result. Habits are the daily and weekly practices that allow you to reach your goal. Set your goal and reverse engineer how it will be achieved; if it's to shed the winter coat, start by creating a daily and weekly plan for your training, food prep and recovery. These actions become your habits, so focus on building these habits and don’t fixate on your goal. Enjoy the journey and measure your progress every 2-4 weeks; if you’re moving forward, keep going. If you’re not moving in the direction or at the pace you’d like, adjust the plan and follow the habits that will see you crush your goals.
8. Chicken salads could be making you fat.
Eating clean but not getting lean? That chicken salad may just be contributing to your muffin top. Many local cafes are dishing up chicken salads at a whopping 1200-1500 calories on average. These salads often have upwards of 360 calories in Olive Oil alone (40ml), throw in some feta, slivered almonds, avocado and then the chicken and you’ve got yourself a solid belly builder. It’s often quite hard to know what you are getting in terms of quantities and calories when eating out. Plan your meals and prepare 90% of your own, then save the 10% to enjoy during social occasions with the crew, especially as the weather heats up.
There you have it, Luke and Chris' top tips to help you cut the fat and get yourself sorted leading into the Aussie summer. While they're well aware that it's the end of October and summer is barely four weeks away, they're confident these tips will get you in shape and feeling better by Christmas.
Luke Walker is the resident physiotherapist and Chris Cannon is the head transformation coach at Life Hub. Check out their website for more fitness tips and information, or more more specific exercise tips, check out Luke's Insta.